Seniors dodge transit fare increase for one more year

Edmonton seniors who use city buses and trains to get around are getting a temporary reprieve from a steep hike to transit pass costs.

On Friday, city council members approved a motion that delays bumping up the cost of an annual transit pass for seniors from $136.50 to $374, but only for people who purchased a pass last year as well.

Seniors who haven’t purchased their 2020 pass yet will now be able to buy one at the 2019 price. However, a number of passes at the new price were already sold: refunds will be issued to those who paid the increase.

Ward 1 Coun. Andrew Knack made the motion to freeze the increase for a year after hearing from constituents frustrated by the change.

“Good to know that there were some folks who were able to handle that increase, but we heard from quite a number of seniors who were unable to handle that increase and who weren’t going to be buying it,” Knack said in an interview following the vote by council.

To help Edmonton Transit make up for any revenue shortfall that results from not going through with the increase, council approved one-time funding of $400,000.

In a statement Friday, transit spokesperson Rowan Anderson said that, to date, the number of passes purchased in 2020 is on track with 2019 sales from the same time last year. However, Knack is sceptical that reducing the cost and issuing refunds will create a shortfall.

“I’ll be shocked if there’s actually a net cost to us because just the sheer number of people who said, ‘I can’t afford it this year,'” he said. “I think we would have seen a revenue decrease overall.”

The $237.50 increase for seniors passes was approved by city council in late 2019 as part of a new fare policy.

The changes also included increasing the number of low-income seniors who qualify for a free transit pass: previously, a free pass was available to seniors with an annual income of about $17,000 or less, and now that threshold has increased to $28,513.

Council is considering another motion that would create a sliding scale price for seniors who have an income that is 11 to 25 per cent higher than the low-income free pass cut-off, Knack said.

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